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Academic Musings, Hiking, Nature, Spiritual Musings, Travel

Mindfulness Writing Retreat in Yosemite

All together, now!
All together, now!

The best, best, best thing I’ve ever done in my professional career was attend the week-long Creative Connections Mindfulness Retreat in Yosemite last month. This beautifully conceived retreat was organized by colleagues/super-women Tanya Golash-Boza and Zulema Valdez at UC-Merced and France Winddance Twine at UC-Santa Barbara. Words cannot express how life-changing and life-affirming this experience was.. but I’ll try anyway 🙂

Working on the deck.
Working on the deck.

Our schedule included everything from workshops, yoga, hiking, swimming, professional massage and meditation. Every morning, we got up around 6 AM for breakfast.  We were writing, in silence, by 7:30.  We prepared and ate healthy meals together, supported each other’s work and laughed incessantly — all in an incredibly gorgeous environment surrounded by natural, rustic beauty.

One thing I know for sure is that I would not have been invited to participate in such an auspicious gathering if I had not “come out” about my spiritual practice and commitment to holistic well-being via this blog two years ago.  Writing about my experience integrating mindfulness, self-care and meditation into my everyday life allowed me to build community with other scholars with similar perspectives. Those friendships, in turn, have fostered connections and opportunities I could have never imagined when I first sat down to pen this post.

One of the things that made this retreat such an incredible and unique academic environment is that it was a completely bullshit-free zone.  Amazingly, I was the only junior scholar in attendance (someone actually got tenure during the retreat!)  While everyone else there (with the exception of yours truly :)) was a senior scholar/rockstar, we all left our professional identities at the door.  There was no sense of “you should know who I am”, no “Dr. this” or “professor that”.  There was simply an assumed knowledge that everyone in attendance was valued and valuable on multiple levels.

This attention to creating a holistic space for creativity and productivity was evident in details big and small.  The conveners of the retreat selected participants with overlapping interests and areas of expertise.  Our small-groups were organized around specific themes pertaining to our research.  Every morning, we discussed issues of wellness, self-care and handling professional dilemmas. We worked together to cook delicious meals and keep our cabin clean.  The space we created was fun, productive, friendly and nurturing.  I wrote everyday, had breakthroughs with my book project and left feeling refreshed, invigorated, cared for, inspired and encouraged.   Most importantly? I left with new and renewed friendships as well as a sense of community unlike anything I’ve ever seen in academia before.

Here are some of the highlights…

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